The 2017 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 22nd. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NBA journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
Today, we hear from Tyler Lydon, a sophomore from Syracuse University, who was second on the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game while also adding 8.6 rebounds per game this past season. Lydon was an integral part of the 2015-16 Orange’s magical run to the Final Four that stunned the college basketball world. He broke down his best memories from that run while giving us insight into why now was the right time to leave school and pursue his NBA future.
Our family is very athletic, and playing sports was always something that our parents had me and my brothers doing. I played baseball and basketball and football, but I fell in love with basketball at a young age. My mom, who played at Dutchess Community College, was always teaching me how to play and how to do certain things. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a ball in my hand. You could say it all started once I was born really.
Ever since I was little, there was always the dream of playing in the NBA. My mom has stuff from me when I was in kindergarten, and we had to fill out sheets about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I remember writing down that I wanted to play in the NBA. It’s always been a dream of mine and it’s something that now, getting to go through this process, I’m very humbled by.
My freshman year at Syracuse is when I really started to realize that the NBA was a realistic goal for me. There was a lot of buzz about whether or not I was going to leave after my freshman year. I had never really thought about it up until that point, that it would actually be a possibility for me, so it was right around then when I started realizing that this could actually happen.
A lot of people tried pinning on me that I always wanted to go to Syracuse because it’s a New York team and I grew up about two and a half hours away from there, but that was never the case. I was always just a basketball fan growing up. So, throughout the whole recruiting process, you hear a lot of the same things, and at Syracuse I was recruited by Mike Hopkins. With him, a lot of what he did I felt was very genuine. He took the time to actually get to know me as a person, he cared about my family which was really important to me and I took that to heart.
On top of that, I looked at the school, because I care about my academics and I still want to go back once I can, but Syracuse is a great school. I also really liked the way they develop their players so it all kind of worked out and it just happened to be an added bonus that it was in my backyard, so to speak.
The Final Four run that we went on in the 2016 tournament is something that you dream about as a little kid. If you grow up watching college basketball, the month of March and beginning of April, that’s all you do is watch the NCAA Tournament. Growing up, you can only dream or imagine playing in a game like that and on a stage like that. So, coming into that tournament we were kind of counted out from the beginning and we proved a lot of people wrong. It was just a great experience. That’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
The biggest reason that I decided to enter the draft this year, following my sophomore season, is because I feel mentally ready. It was never going to be a situation where I was going to test the waters, it was either I was ready or I wasn’t. I just felt like that’s the best way to go about approaching whether to enter the NBA Draft or not. So, last year, I had some doubts and I didn’t even really think about it too much to be honest because I just knew that I had to come back. I wanted to improve on my body and get better as a player so that I could go in and potentially make an impact on a team. After this past season, I just felt mentally ready and felt good about the decision so that’s why I decided to enter the draft this year.
My coaching staff has been really supportive throughout my decision making process, all they had to say were good things. That just makes the transition, and your decision, so much easier when you have people like that behind you.
As I look at the NBA level, I think that I can fit in really well. Being a stretch four or a mobile four, whatever you want to call me, I feel like I can really add a lot to a team right away with my shooting ability. I’m going to be able to stretch the floor and make it easier for other guys. That’s what the game is continuing to move towards, with forwards needing to be able to space the floor and knocking down open threes. I think that I can make things easier on other guys if I go into a team and I’m able to shoot the ball well, which I know that I can do.
The defensive side of the ball is going to be a question that comes up with every team because of the style of defense that we play at Syracuse. We played a 2-3 zone, but we still had to go over man defense every day and we had to play against it in practice so that we were able to go over the plays that we would be running in games. Every team plays man, so you have to know the principles behind man defense in order to be able to attack it.
I’m comfortable playing man defense and I’m athletic enough where I think I can get out and guard multiple positions and switch on pick-and-rolls. I’m not saying that I’m going to be the best defender right away, I know it will take some time to get better at it, but I feel very comfortable playing it right now and I think that’s something that teams may be surprised by.
What I’ve been working on since returning for my sophomore year and I continue to work on as I prepare for the draft, is my all-around game. Being comfortable handling the ball, getting more comfortable working in the post with various moves, and of course, shooting, just trying to improve as much as I can in every aspect for the next level. Off the court, I did whatever I could to gain weight and get stronger. I think that went pretty well as I gained about 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason and physically I feel much more ready and mature.
As I go through this process, at times I have to just take a step back and realize what I’m doing. To be able to go out to dinner and talk with all of these NBA front offices and coaching staffs, it’s unbelievable. I never thought I would be in this position, doing what I’m doing. Every time, I just try and take a step back and be thankful for it so that I can make the best of the opportunity.
A lot of people ask me if there’s a particular team that I would want to play for in the NBA. It’s hard, because I was a Knicks fan growing up – my father is a big Knicks fan – but honestly any team would be great. At the end of the day, I just want to go to a team and be able to help.